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Top tips for avoiding scams


Have you ever been caught out by a scam, whether online, face-to-face or over the phone? Well, as it turns out, scammers target one in ten over 50s, so we're raising awareness of safety among older people and have put together a list of top tips on how to avoid getting caught out. If you've ever been scammed and would like to share your experience, do post on our forums. 


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Online scams 

1. Never open an email, attachments, or links to websites which have been sent unsolicited, as they may link to malicious software which could damage your computer. For more information about staying safe online, see the Age UK guide to internet security.

2. A common scam is an email which appears to be from your bank, asking you for your details and possibly threatening to close your account. The email may link to what looks like your bank’s official website. Your bank will never email you to ask for your details so delete emails like this immediately. 

3. Online forums, social networks and online dating sites are a great way to meet new people. Trust your instinct though and don’t provide too much personal information, especially financial details. If someone tells you a hard luck story and asks for help or money, then block them, report them to the website moderator and don’t respond.


Phone scams 

phone scam

1. Never give out financial information or your PIN number over the phone. Your bank will never contact you for this information. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from your bank informing you that you have been the victim of fraud, hang up the phone and call the bank yourself, from another line if possible, using the number from a statement or letter.

2. It's never pleasant getting unsolicited sales calls. To reduce the amount you receive register with the Telephone Preference Service – a free register to help you opt out of getting cold calls. Contact the TPS on 0845 703 4599.

3. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from a software company and asking about your computer, hang up. It’s a common scam to get you to download malicious software. 


Mail scams 

1. Ignore unsolicited invitations such as letters, emails or phone calls saying you’ve won a lottery or prize. Never reply - it shows your details are active which will encourage scammers to contact you again. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Contact the TPS on 0845 703 4599 to have your name taken off UK direct mailing lists.

2. Be careful about signing up for any "free trial" offers you may get through the post or online. Some try to get you to sign up and will then charge you after the trial has ended without informing you. Contact the Citizens Advice consumer service for advice on 03454 04 05 06.

3. Be wary of letters offering rare and time-limited investment opportunities or pyramid schemes where you have to recruit new members to a money-making venture. These schemes can lose you a lot of money. Don’t respond to the letters and seek advice if you have fallen victim to a scam like this. Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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Doorstep scams

knocking on door

1. When a cold caller comes to your door, follow these simple steps to stay safe:

  • Lock – make sure all your doors are locked before you go to the front door
  • Stop - think about whether you’re expecting anyone
  • Chain – put the door chain on for added security
  • Check – ask for ID and examine it carefully

Double check by phoning the company they represent on a number you get yourself from the phone book. See the Age UK guide to avoiding scams and staying safe for more useful tips.

2. Don’t be rushed into buying anything on your doorstep, even if the seller has a time-limited special offer. Seek advice, take time to think and check out their credentials first. If they’re being too pushy or acting suspiciously, ask them to leave or call the police if they refuse. See our free guide avoiding scams for more information.

3. If you answer the door to someone who claims to be from a utility company or the council, ask for an identity card and check it. If in doubt, phone the company they represent to check who they are. If you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave, call 999 and ask for the police.

4. Watch out for bogus charity collectors. They may come to your door to ask you to donate money, clothes or household goods for charity. They may even claim to be supporting victims of scams. Ask for their registered charity number and check it with the Charity Commission. If they are not registered then don’t donate to them and report them to the Charity Commission on 0845 300 0218 or on their website.


Pension scams 

If you get a letter, email or phone call trying to persuade you to part with your pension cash, then be very cautious. Tricksters will use terms like "pension liberation" and "legal loopholes" and may offer you early access to your pension before the age of 55. Do not be tempted. Get free and impartial advice from the government's Pension Wise website and don’t be rushed into making decisions about your pension.


Have you been the victim of a scam? 

If you have been the victim of a scam, don't be embarrassed to report it. It could happen to anyone and reporting it could help to prevent other people from being tricked too. Action Fraud can advise you on what to do and may be able to track down the fraudster. Contact them on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website.


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